All the way through high school, my pops and I would celebrate pretty much every birthday together since our birthdays are only two days apart. When I started college, I apparently became extra selfish and decided that hanging with my friends was more fun and important and that I wanted to celebrate my birthday with them instead of with my family. Hindsight is always 20/20 and now when I look back on my life, I have a heavy heart and guilt that I didn’t spend more time with my father. It’ll be four years this June since he’s been gone and I’d gladly give back all the crazy college birthdays I spent away from him just to have one more chance to sing a happy birthday song together.
My father served 6 tours in Vietnam. He was part of a group of interpreters who served for the South Vietnamese Army but was assigned to an American unit, the 11th Armored Cavalry, H Co. aka… The Blackhorse. Now, don’t take the label of interpreter lightly. Usually, they were the first men to head into unknown territory and villages because they were familiar with the terrain and could speak with the villagers. They were not only interpeters but acted as soldiers first and foremost and often times as medical practitioners. Grown men in their 60s and 70s have come up to me at reunions for the 11th Armored Cavalry, hugging me and crying to me, telling me how many times my father had saved their lives. After the war ended, my father had to find his own way out of the country. After several failed attempts of escaping and many stints in torturous Vietnamese reeducation camps, he was finally able to escape as a refugee on a boat to Thailand where he met my mama. Hiding from pirates, all the refugees were huddled up under plastic tarps with my father’s head buried beneath my mama’s butt. I’ve always been an ass man and apparently I got that trait from my pops. =)
It’s crazy how much I am like my father. I’ve inherited so many of the characteristics that made him such an incredible man but at the same time, I know if he were alive, he’d tell me that I still need to continue to work on being a better human being, brother, and man. I know he’d slap me silly for being impatient and unforgiving, two traits that I am very aware of. He was extremely loyal, ridiculously romantic, and his work ethic was incomparable, all traits that he’s definitely passed on to me.
Pops, if you’re looking down on me today, I want to wish you the most amazing birthday. Knowing you, you’re probably eating Cup O Noodles right now with a small bag of Cheetos dumped into the cup. You’re most likely tending to the most amazing garden in the heavens. I know you’re taking care of our grandmas and you probably got a camera strapped around your neck. You probably fell asleep to a Chuck Norris or Steven Segal movie or most likely a nature documentary. If you were still here, I know mama would wake up to the most over the top display of a flower arrangement sitting on the dining table that you bought for her for no apparent reason. And I know she’d probably get mad at you for wasting money… but then tend to the flowers with the care only a loving mother and wife would know and constantly comment on how beautiful they were. I love you and miss you a ton and know that you’re guiding me through my life each and everyday. I know I often have stumbles in my journey but know that I am constantly working to be a better person, brother, and man. If I can become even half the man you are, then I know I’ve succeeded in life.
Happy birthday pops.